Two Cricket South Africa officials have angered the Australian team by posing next to fans wearing Sonny Bill Williams masks.
Clive Eksteen, CSA’s head of commercial and marketing, and Altaaf Kazi, the organisation’s head of communications, have been photographed at the second Test posing alongside spectators wearing Sonny Bill Williams masks, worn as a ploy to taunt Australian opener and vice-captain David Warner.
The two smiled and put their arms around each other as they stood alongside three men in masks on the first day of play at St George’s Park on Friday.
The Australian team has been made aware of the photo and are outraged by it, as well as CSA’s call to overturn a decision by venue security to have the masks confiscated in bags at the turnstiles on entry.
Officially, CSA has been trying to pour oil on troubled waters after the destructive row which broke out between Quinton de Kock and Warner. Part of it stemmed from an alleged comment made by De Kock which referred to Warner’s wife, and New Zealand superstar rugby player Williams, who had a well-publicised encounter two years before she met Warner.
The Australians asked that security refuse to allow the masks into the venue, not only for the sake of Warner’s wife and their children – who were at the game – but also in the spirit of the two teams moving beyond the acrimony of the first Test.
Contacted by Fairfax Media on Friday night, Kazi admitted CSA had made the decision to tell security to let the fans in with the masks.
Kazi said the picture was not an indication that the CSA officials were supporting the baiting of Warner in such a fashion.
The revelation that CSA endorsed their entry into the venue with the masks, and the executives then posed for photos with the fans, is set to further strain relations between the sides. Cricket Australia chairman David Peever is due to arrive in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The news also comes as the ICC steps up an investigation into how footage of the Warner-De Kock altercation was originally leaked.
That issue is being taken very seriously by the world’s governing body as the video was captured in a PMOA (players and match officials area).
A report has been filed with the ICC, which has appointed anti-corruption manager Arrie de Beer to lead the investigation.